Halfway through 1943, Susan Marcus’s father loses his job in the Bronx, NYC, and finds a new one halfway across the country. It’s all the fault of the stupid war, thinks Susan — although once in Missouri, it’s hard to even remember there’s a war going on. Instead, Susan finds herself thinking about the Jim Crow laws that still exist in her new town, and the prejudice that she witnesses against not just blacks, but also against Jews, Japanese, and New Yorkers. Breaking the rules would get her in big trouble, Susan knows, but maybe she can figure out a way to bend them a little. Together with her new friends, Loretta (the daughter of a black janitor), Marlene, and Marlene’s younger sister, Liz, she plans a rule-bending outing (nothing that’s technically against the law) involving an integrated bus ride and lunch in a Chinese restaurant that’s being boycotted by Japanese-hating townspeople. This coming-of-age story appropriately, and in the best sense, has an old-fashioned feel. Nothing huge happens, other than the little bit of empowerment earned by a principled fifth grade girl. Though the topic is difficult, the story is quiet and gentle — but no less compelling for its lack of stridency.
Recommended for ages 8 – 12.